NHS England publishes refreshed adult safeguarding accountability and assurance framework

On 2 July 2015, NHS England published “Safeguarding Vulnerable People in the NHS – Accountability and Assurance Framework”.

This is an update to their previous March 2013 framework. It sets out the minimum standards expected across the system.

The purpose of the document is to set out clearly the safeguarding roles, duties and responsibilities of all organisations commissioning NHS health and social care, particularly recognising the new responsibilities set out in the Care Act 2014. NHS England explain that organisations need to come together to mitigate risks and develop workable local solutions. They emphasise that safeguarding adults at risk of abuse or neglect is a collective responsibility. In respect of children the quote from Working Together to Safeguard Children: “no professional should assume that someone else will pass on information which they think may be critical to keeping a child safe.”

Please do refer to our May 2015 briefing on Safeguarding and the Care Act.

The framework aims to:

  • Identify and clarify how relationships between health and other systems work at both strategic and operational levels
  • Set out the legal framework for safeguarding as it relates to the various NHS organisations
  • Promote empowerment and autonomy for adults
  • Outline principles, attitudes, expectations and ways of working

It notes the distinction between providers’ responsibilities to provide safe and high quality care and support and commissioners’ responsibilities to assure themselves of the safety and effectiveness of services they have commissioned. NHS England look at the role of CCGs as being fundamentally about working with others to ensure that critical services are in place to respond – it is about delivering improved outcomes and life chances for the most vulnerable.

NHS England note that it is essential to continue to revisit and develop the safeguarding arrangements in place. They state that, fundamentally, it remains the responsibility of every NHS funded organisation and each individual healthcare professional working in the NHS to ensure that the principles and duties of safeguarding adults and children are holistically, consistently and conscientiously applied, with the wellbeing of those adults and children at the heart of everything that is done. It also highlights the need to respect autonomy with regard to adult safeguarding and how care must be taken not to treat the Mental Capacity Act simply as a tool of safeguarding, losing sight of the principles of empowerment and autonomy.

What now ?

Policies and procedures are recommended. In addition, providers and commissioners are reminded that staff must be appropriately trained.

It is noted that good information sharing practice is at the heart of good safeguarding practice.

How we can help

Safeguarding is a high risk, high profile area with often finely balanced judgment calls to be made. We have lawyers well versed in information governance, child law, Care Act 2014 and Mental Capacity Act issues who are able to assist with any thorny questions that may arise at any time of the day or night or who can review local policies and deliver training.

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